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Itse Sagay 'Nigeria is not a nation', says PACAC chairman

According to him, the country's 1999 constitution does not appropriately cater to regional differences.

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Prof. Itse Sagay play

Prof. Itse Sagay


The Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay, has revealed that there is so much division in the country because of the different backgrounds of its various ethnic groups.

According to him, the country's 1999 constitution does not appropriately cater to these historical differences that have divided the groups over the years.

He said, "I think the first point to make is that Nigeria, to use Chief Obafemi Awolowo's words, is not a nation. It is geographical entity containing many nations and the difference between a Yoruba and Hausa man or Igbo man is not less than the difference between an English and French man or German."

According to him, the 1999 constitution, unlike the 1963 constitution, diminished regional interests and created weak states in the country.

He pointed at this as the major reason why there's tension in the country as the Federal Government wields a great amount of power to the detriment of regional needs and interests.

Sagay said, "So, that was the spirit which the 1963 Constitution, you had the powerful regions and the federal level where concentration was on matters of common interest like foreign affairs, defence, currency, immigration and others; but the bulk of activities were transferred to the regions because they were closer to the people and the Constitution recognised that these regions contained people with different backgrounds, historically and otherwise.

"So, the mistake of the 1999 Constitution, which was made by the military and not by the people is to assume that every Nigerian has the same social and historical backgrounds and so, there should be a very tight Federal Government and very weak states.

"The 1999 Constitution turns a blind eye to these major social and ethnic divergence in Nigeria forgetting that all the various states and ethnic groups were independent when the British came.

"This is what the 1999 Constitution has overlooked and that is why there is so much tension in the land because the federal government is regarded to be too powerful therefore putting us together in a sort of tight embrace.

"The various states and regions want more autonomy and freedom to operate in their own way, whilst operating in the centre to form a united Nigeria.

"You will recall that with the 1960 and 1963 constitution, each region kept 50 per cent of its natural resources, they contributed 20 per cent to the federal government and then, the remaining 30 per cent was shared by all the regions on the basis of need."

Due to the shortcomings of the 1999 constitution, Sagay concluded that devolution of power to the states might be a solution to the wave of agitations for secession currently flooding the country.

According to him, "So, this is what people are asking for. They are asking for increased political power, increased fiscal federalism whilst interacting with members of the same country in unity. That is why I think the 1999 constitution was mistakenly drafted and foisted on Nigeria; that is why there is so much tension."

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